MADISON - Through the first three nonconference games of the 2011 football season, Wisconsin has used two different offensive line combinations and have yet to see a drop in production. Saturday, fans will find out if those numbers continue with the Badgers’ third different lineup.
With senior right tackle Josh Oglesby slowed by a strained MCL suffered against Northern Illinois, redshirt freshman Rob Havenstein will get his first career start when No.6 Wisconsin hosts South Dakota at 2:30 p.m. at Camp Randall.
“He’s looked pretty good in spring, early in fall camp and he just got back to being healthy before the opener,” UW coach Bret Bielema said Thursday. “He’s gotten a few game reps. I think he can handle the speed of the game and obviously, all the things you go through in your first start. Every indication he’s shown me is he’s a pretty serious kid.”
That serious was showed with Havenstein’s dedication to his body. Coming in weighing between 368 and 378 pounds, the Maryland native has dropped his weight to 345 pounds, a difference Bielema said is easily noticeable.
“They put him on a diet and he gained five pounds,” Bielema said. “What they did last year is start trimming it up … I watched him play basketball in high school and I am amazed at how well he moved. Just to watch him move on the basketball court I was like, ‘Wow, this kid really does have some athleticism.'
“He did so many extra workouts and things on his own to lose that weight. It was pretty astonishing.”
Oglesby (strained MCL) practiced Thursday and will be available, but it appears the Wisconsin coaching staff will try to rest Oglesby in preparation for the conference opener next Saturday against Nebraska, allowing Havenstein to get his first start.
“I tell you what, I think Josh is afraid of him,” Bielema said, implying that a good performance by Havenstein would reopen the right tackle job.
Gaulden is anxious
After missing all of preseason football camp with a titanium rod stuck in his leg to repair a stress fracture, nobody would blame Devin Gaulden if he decided to redshirt and focused on being fully recovered for the 2012 season. Problem is, that’s not Gaulden’s style.
Gaulden de-committed from two schools during the recruiting process – Auburn and Wake Forest – for the reason, according to Bielema, that the freshman was looking for early playing time right away, something Wisconsin is going to be able to provide him.
“He wanted to play and he thought this would be his best opportunity to play here at Wisconsin early,” Bielema said. “I know it’s been on his mind … His approach as always been to play.”
Gaulden is ahead of Darius Hillary but behind redshirt freshman Peniel Jean in the rotation, but the plan is for the freshman from Fort Lauderdale to get his feet wet against South Dakota and get him involved in the game plan for next week.
“He’s only been practicing five days because he just got cleared last week,” Bielema said. “He’s extremely talented. He’s probably one of the pure cover guys I have ever seen at that age … He uses his hands well, is real mature and was raised in an environment with a lot of structure, which I do think carries over to the football field.
Coaching the least penalized team in the nation last season, any amount of penalties Wisconsin committed in this nonconference season would seem like a lot in comparison. But after being flagged for six penalties in each of the first three games, Bielema is looking for a cleaner game in the nonconference finale.
“They’re great teaching (point),” Bielema said. “The offsides stuff, I am really glad we are working on here in the nonconference schedule when the games really haven’t been in question. We try to discipline ourselves.”
An example was Conor O’Neill’s hit on the quarterback, which was a penalty called by a Pac 12 crew. Bielema said the hit by O’Neill was explained to him as a, ‘not nature tackling act.’
“We teach them to hit below the shoulders and hit with our shoulders, don’t hit with your head, which is exactly when he did,” Bielema said. “I had never heard that enforced, so that was an area we cleaned up.”
Even with the conference opener looming, Bielema said his team has been locked in all week, delivering one of the best weeks of practice this early in the season. Wisconsin needs it, considering South Dakota runs a 3-4 defense that isn’t used much in the Big Ten and an offense that runs pro-style, spread, Pistol and split-back veer to name a few.
“They do everything,” Bielema said of the Coyotes. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Extra Points: Kevin Claxton (wrist) has practiced this week and is in the game plan Saturday, but sophomore Ethan Armstrong will start his third straight game … Bielema said opposing offenses haven’t given Wisconsin’s defense a lot of turnover opportunities except for two passes that the defense dropped … Bielema wants to get Melvin Gordon and Fred Willis returning kicks, but wouldn’t do it to start a half.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Badger sports news, notes and discussion, especially on game day, follow Badger Nation on Twitter @TheBadgerNation